Insert “Jesus” here

I noticed a recent article in Forbes Magazine (April 23, 2007) entitled “Godly Work.” The article’s author, Rich Karlgaard, asked an excellent question which should have made for an interesting read. He asked, “How should people who call themselves Christians conduct their lives in a secular world?”. Later on in the article he relates the genesis of his thinking about this to a sermon he recently heard.

“Not long ago I heard a surprisingly good sermon, called “Jesus and Your Job,” given by Nancy Ortberg of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Meenlo Park, Calif. (For non-Christian readers, just substitute the name Jesus with that of your preferred Higher Power and proceed.)”

Now I know what you might be thinking but the first thing that caused me to choke on my oatmeal was not the fact that this guy is disregarding the Bible’s teaching on women preaching. I think there is something more rudimentary at stake in this article which I think is reflective of how many people think (including some pastors). Read the quote again. Did you notice the parenthetical part where Jesus is merely an interchangeable fixture to the meaning of the sermon. Sadly, this man went away with the impression that Jesus could easily be substituted for a “Higher Power” like a field general in the game of Stratego.

However, I read this as a sobering reminder that if Jesus is removed from our sermons then the sermon is transformed into nothing more than a nonsensical moralistic tale. If Jesus is cauterized from the core of the sermon then the sermon should fall apart at various levels (exegetically, hermeneutically, theologically, apologetically, etc.). However, preaching Christ is more than inserting “Jesus” at key parts of the sermon. Depending on where you’re preaching in Scripture there is always the anticipation of the Messiah or the revelation of the Messiah so that the Messiah should always be seen. This does not mean that we make Him magically appear through the hocus pocus of forced typology or allegory. There should be, however, what Walter Kaiser calls a “messianic consciousness” that permeates the messages that we preach. If Christ is not there then neither is a Christian sermon. The Apostle said it best in Colossians 1:17 when speaking of the centrality of Christ, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Our sermons should not be an exception to this wonderful truth.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by CraigP on May 25, 2007 at 1:39 am

    I had very similar thoughts after reading a book by John Ortberg (coincidence? I think not!) a couple years back.

    I was tasked with teaching an adult Sunday School class on it. I refused. My church leadership still didn’t see the problem. Ultimately, my family left that church (over that and other similar issues).

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